Two nine win teams will play each other in San Diego for the Holiday Bowl. Washington State and Michigan State are two totally different teams, but are both successful teams, which should make for a good matchup. Here is the 2017 San Diego Credit Union Holiday Bowl preview:
18 Washington State Cougars (9-3)
Mike Leach has led Washington State to another successful season. They beat five bowl eligible teams on their way to a nine win season. Their notable wins include: Boise State, USC, Oregon and Stanford.
Offense is the name of the game for the Cougars, but they fell short of their own expectations this year by scoring 31.4 points per game. The running game isn’t the strong point of the offense and ranks 129th in the country. Jamal Morrow and James Williams split carries, but they don’t get many chances. Morrow has 522 rushing yards and four touchdowns, while Williams has 381 rushing yards and one score.
The passing game is what the offense is built around. Luke Falk has had a solid senior season, but has drawn the ire out of Leach at times. He has 3,593 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and 13 interceptions this season. The senior has broken many Pac-12 records and although he has struggled, can be trusted. Tavares Martin is the leading receiver with 831 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.
Defensively, Washington State is playing better than most years, allowing 24.4 points per game. They rank 44th against the run and eighth against the pass. Hercules Mata’afa is a game-changer who has 9.5 total sacks this season.
16 Michigan State Spartans (9-3)
Mark Dantonio has done a great job of turning around Michigan State in a short period of time. They went from three wins last season to nine wins this year. While they lost to Northwestern, Ohio State and Notre Dame, the Spartans were able to beat Penn State and Michigan.
Offense is tough to come by for Michigan State, as they score just 23.1 points per game. They run the ball better than they pass the ball with 162.9 rushing yards per game. L.J. Scott is the team’s leading rusher with 788 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Quarterback Brian Lewerke is second on the team in rushing with 486 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
Lewerke is a good dual-threat and has made the offense better. He has 2,580 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Felton Davis III is the go-to-guy for the Spartans with 658 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Darrell Stewart Jr. and Cody White also contribute with over 400 yards receiving.
The defense for Michigan State is what makes the team good. They allow just 20.3 points per game, which is good enough for 23rd in the country. The Spartans are fifth against the run and 31st against the pass. Sophomore defensive lineman Kenny Willekes has seven sacks on the season and will be tasked with getting after Falk.
Washington State does have some deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball, but Michigan State won’t be able to take advantage of that. Falk will have a big day to end his career and could even lead Washington State on a game-winning drive.
Washington State Cougars 36 Michigan State 28
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